NCL markets their ships as having “adult-only” clubs were you can dance until dawn.” Although not mentioned by NCL, which promotes the Norwegian Dawn as having “12 fun bars and lounges”, the real target groups for this cruise are (1) parents that want to allow their 18 yr. old children to drink and gamble (although clearly no effort was made to ensure that those that only perhaps looked 18 were not drinking and gambling), and (2) families with small children. Children are allowed everywhere and at all times. The only exception is the disco where children under 18 are apparently not allowed after 11:00 pm., which makes little sense as there is a separate disco for children. Therefore, unless you want to dance or sing along with children, there is no place to do so until 11:00 pm., and then you are likely to be surrounded by intoxicated 18 year olds (or those that looked close enough). While there may have been recent problems, we have never experienced any similar issues with either Carnival or Royal Caribbean, which do not appear to encourage or support under age drinking.
There is no real adult-oriented entertainment, which is fine provided NCL makes that disclaimer in its advertising. There were two comedy shows the entire trip, and only on the last night was there an attempted “adult” show. This one adult show was held in a smaller venue, the disco, and after the teenagers had already been allowed into the disco. Therefore many of the teenagers simply stayed, and therefore there were no place for adults to sit, except on the floor. The venue was extremely over-packed with people standing or sitting shoulder-to-shoulder on the floor and was certainly a dangerous fire hazard, which did not appear to be a concern for NCL or the Cruise Director that introduced the show.
The freestyle dining is also not handled particularly well. First, there is a lot of misinformation. We saw people passing through the long lines and wait to get into the main dining rooms that had made reservations. Therefore, we made reservations ourselves. The next night, however, the reservations desk told us that they did not take reservations for the main dining rooms, which was clearly wrong. A majority of the time the food was not delivered timely, but this was not the fault of the waiters but was a problem with the kitchen and management. It was not unusual to wait 20 to 25 minutes after ordering before the salad or first course was served. Therefore, unless you prefer the buffets or do not mind the wait, freestyle dining did not work particularly well on Norwegian Dawn. The food, although prepared well, was also blander than other cruises, which may be because they are attempting to appeal to a wide variety of individuals.
Another comment, directed more toward the passengers, is that there seemed to be a greater amount of trash and discarded eating material left behind on the pool deck. Although it is not much of an excuse, there were not a lot of trash receptacles nearby, but passengers did not appear to be as concerned about leaving their trash behind after laying in the sun (perhaps this relates back to the amount of underage drinking).
The only bright spot of the cruise is the stateroom and bathroom, and our room steward, Gilbert. He was attentive and responsive. The bedroom was not bad, and bathroom was nicer than most cruises.
NCL’s wine corkage fee is also unreasonable. Unlike other cruise lines, NCL charges an excessive corking fee even if you only consume wine in your stateroom. Further, other cruses will return your shore-purchased wine the last day of sailing as opposed to NCL that returns any wine the morning before you debark. Therefore, the NCL policy appears to encourage under-age consumption so long as it is paid for while on board – Nice.
Regardless, based on the above, Norwegian Dawn, will be our only NCL cruise as we believe the cruise was misrepresented, does not offer much for adults without children, and is not managed particularly well. Hopefully other cruise lines will resist any similar policies.